Gratitude is an extremely powerful human attribute. The gratitude movement has gained a lot of momentum in recent years and for good reason. Martin Seligman’s Positive Psychology came out some thirty odd years ago, introducing the study of emotions such as gratitude, optimism, happiness, compassion and altruism. At the time, this was a revolutionary idea in the field of psychology since most of the studies about human emotion prior to this had focused on “negative psychology”; mental illness, trauma, addiction and stress.
Since then, there has been a huge focus on the cultivation of positive emotions. In fact, we now know that by actively seeking to increase positive emotions and attributes in ourselves, it helps us in times of adversity and emotional turmoil and leads to greater happiness and resilience.
Psychologist Robert Emmons studied the power of gratitude, in particular, and found that expressing gratitude improves mental, physical and social health and increases one’s the overall experience of happiness.
Gratitude is our emotion which effects our ability to feel appreciation of things and express our appreciation. Of all the attributes one can develop, gratitude is the most powerful one to help us with good mental health and stand us in good stead in more challenging times. With strong emphasis on gratitude, you can decrease stress, anxiety and depression and feel more connected to loved ones and the world around you.
Creating an attitude of gratitude
Focussing on cultivating more gratitude in your life will have long lasting effects and improve your emotional and physical well-being. There are plenty of ways to cultivate more gratitude in your daily life – it’s such a hot topic at the moment all you need to do is google it and you’ll find a great variety of ways in which to do so. Here are some of my favourites;
1. Start a Gratitude Journal
One of the best ways is to keep a gratitude journal in which you can jot down three things each day that you are grateful for. Not big things in life, but three smaller things or experiences for which you are thankful for. Start incorporating this practice into your daily routine. Some people like to do it as soon as they wake up and before they get out of bed, some like to do it just before they go to sleep, maybe it’s more efficient to do it on the train after work. Whatever works for you. Maybe you can get your partner or your family involved and each talk about one of your positive experiences at dinner each day.
2. Be more thankful in your daily life
Literally, say thank you more often. Express your gratitude to those around you. Did your partner make dinner for you or wash your clothes? Say thank you. Did your local barista make your coffee just the way you like it? Tell them. Thank them. Say thanks to the bus driver for driving you safely to your destination. Smile more to express your gratitude. Mention out loud to someone what a beautiful day it is if the sun is shining. There are plenty of small ways we can repeatedly express our gratitude throughout the day. And when you are grateful for a small gesture, try to linger on that feeling a little bit more each time.
3. Write a gratitude letter to someone
I have touched on this before and I cannot express enough what a powerful experience this can be. The idea is to write a letter to someone significant in your life. Someone who has made a positive impact on your life; be it a parent, an old teacher, a colleague. Express in your letter your gratitude and outline the positive impact they have had on you. If possible, arrange a time to meet with and read it aloud to them. Not only will you feel incredibly empowered and happy but they will obviously feel wonderful too.
4. Do a less-than-five-minutes Gratitude Practice each day
A short meditation; simply think of a blessing in your life, something you are thankful for. Focus on the image in your mind’s eye, offer a silent “thank you” and relax into the feeling of gratitude. Breathe, feel more gratitude. Hold the thought for a minute or more. Gratitude in the workplace – Be a leader with an attitude of gratitude People in leadership positions who actively cultivate gratitude in the workplace benefit from it’s cumulative effects during times of stress and adversity. As a leader you can use the positive energy generated through gratitude practice to keep you grounded and focussed in stressful situations. With gratitude on your side, you can quickly pivot during stressful situations, such as your team not performing or the bottom line dropping. By focussing on the silver linings of a stressful occasion and looking for opportunities to be grateful for, you are more able to focus on the present moment and summon the energy to turn things around. Having an attitude of gratitude stops you from spiralling into negative thinking in these moments.
The more conscious we are about perceiving an experience as being positive the more this perception will generalise to other parts of the brain. Research shows the more you practice gratitude, the more you create new neural pathways and alter existing ones as you train your brain to develop a more grateful outlook. So, start incorporating gratitude in your life today and reap the rewards. On that note, I’d like to thank you for reading this article; I truly and whole-heartedly appreciate it!
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